38, OXLEY ROAD DEBATE

PM says siblings threatened to go public with dispute during 2015 polls

From left, Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Wei Ling.
From left, Lee Hsien Yang, Lee Hsien Loong and Lee Wei Ling. PHOTOS: ST FILE

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday revealed how his siblings had issued him an ultimatum on the eve of the 2015 General Election, saying they would go public with their dispute with him if he did not agree to their demands.

They set a deadline of Sept 1, which happened to be Nomination Day for the polls on Sept 11.

Among other things, PM Lee told MPs, his siblings wanted him to undertake to help them get their father's 38, Oxley Road house knocked down.

This was part of a deal that the Lee siblings had tried to reach in which PM Lee would transfer the house to them for a nominal $1, if they stopped making allegations against him, he said.

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But, he added, he was not prepared to be intimidated on the eve of the polls.

"I told them I was very busy, and they would surely understand I had a lot on my plate. I would respond as soon as the elections were over, which I did," he said.

He also pointed out that he had asked his siblings to clarify the circumstances surrounding their father's last will.

  • Dr Lee on failed deal over transfer of house

    In a Facebook post filed after yesterday's Parliament session, Dr Lee Wei Ling (above) said that she had asked her brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, to join in on the failed deal that would have seen the 38, Oxley Road family home transferred to her for a nominal amount of $1:

    "When Hsien Loong offered to sell Oxley to me for $1, I immediately asked Hsien Yang to be part of the deal with me. I have neither the time nor the inclination to deal with the house on my own. Hsien Yang did not ask to join me in purchasing the house for $1.

    Also, Hsien Yang had long planned to demolish the house when I no longer need it and convert it into a public garden.

    Neither of us were planning to profit from the deal.

    As for the donation to charity, Papa was very clear in his mind, he and Mama had paid for the property at the full financial value when they bought it, there was therefore no need to donate to charity any money related to transactions on Oxley."

PM Lee had noted previously how he had grave doubts about how that final will had come to be drafted and the role played by his brother, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, and his wife, Mrs Lee Suet Fern, in it.

The Sept 1 deadline passed without event.

This revelation came to light in Parliament yesterday as the PM sought to explain why his offer to transfer the 38, Oxley Road house to his siblings for a nominal sum fell through.

PM Lee gave details of these and other family matters in Parliament yesterday, saying he had always wanted to manage the family matter privately. He had even compromised some of his own interests to seek an amicable solution.

Over two days in Parliament, MPs like Ms Sun Xueling (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) asked why PM Lee had offered to transfer the house to his sister for $1, but later transferred it to his brother at market value.

Mr Henry Kwek (Nee Soon GRC) asked why PM Lee did not raise his concerns over his father's will earlier, before it was deemed valid and granted probate. PM Lee addressed both issues.

THE $1 DEAL THAT FELL THROUGH

In May 2015, PM Lee offered to sell the house for $1 to his sister to allay his siblings' unhappiness over their father leaving the house to him, as his share of the estate.

All he asked was that if the property were sold later, or acquired by the Government, all proceeds would go to charity.

PM Lee said his brother "wanted in on the deal", to jointly buy the house with Dr Lee for $1.

[In a Facebook post after yesterday's sitting, Dr Lee Wei Ling said she had asked Mr Lee Hsien Yang to join in on the deal (see left).]

But disagreements arose over the conditions of the deal, said PM Lee. He said his siblings started making allegations against him.

"I told them that they would have to stop attacking me if they wanted the deal done, because otherwise... there was no point my transferring the house to them," he said.

But he could not agree to his siblings' demand that he undertake to help them campaign for their father's house to be torn down.

"I said, I cannot do that. I do not know what you will do, and I do not know whether I will agree with everything you will do," said the Prime Minister.

After the election, PM Lee made a fresh offer to sell the house at full market value to his brother to break the impasse. The only condition of this deal was that each brother donate half the value to charity.

The deal was inked in December 2015. This plan was a variation on what had been discussed with their father, but it had not been adopted.

"I hoped that that would settle the problem and I could keep the matter low-key," said PM Lee.

WHY MAKE STATUTORY DECLARATIONS?

Later, when the ministerial committee studying options for the house asked all three Lee siblings for their views, PM Lee wrote in with his thoughts. The siblings commented on each other's views.

But because his brother and sister emphasised the first part of the clause in their father's will about demolishing the house, PM Lee said he felt the need to explain the circumstances surrounding the will.

His sister-in-law, Mrs Lee, was involved in the making of the seventh and final will.

It differed from the previous ones in the shares of the estate it gave to each sibling, and included a clause on demolishing the house that had been taken out of the two most recent wills.

MPs have asked if Mrs Lee's involvement was a conflict of interest as her husband, Mr Lee Hsien Yang, was a beneficiary of the estate.

PM Lee said yesterday that he chose to make statutory declarations on the matter due to its gravity. A person may be jailed or fined if he is found to have made a false statutory declaration.

PM Lee said he made his statements privately because he did not want to escalate the quarrel.

He released summaries of the declarations publicly only on June 14, when his siblings made public their allegations against him.

"I was forced to respond," he said.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2017, with the headline 'PM says siblings threatened to go public with dispute during 2015 polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe